The Conscious Classroom

The Power of Fostering Friendships in the Classroom

November 05, 2023 Episode 62
The Conscious Classroom
The Power of Fostering Friendships in the Classroom
Show Notes Transcript

There's a hidden superpower in a regular teen activity that will provide support for teachers as well as students. This inclination, when activated, encouraged, and guided can create a safety net for students, build webbing so classrooms feel warm and encouraging, catch students who are falling behind, and bring out the sensitivity and protectiveness of some of the most unruly students. What is it? Friendships. Yes, simple friendships. In this episode, Amy Edelstein talks about how to structure the friendships and the positive benefits that come when students begin to support each other's successes, connect in simple ways to help each other stay on track, and even model positive challenges ahead. As always, this episode is practical, philosophical, and experiential. Enjoy this roadmap and the meditation that goes along with it!

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Hello and welcome to this episode of The Conscious Classroom. My name is Amy Edelstein. Today, I want to talk about the importance of friendships, healthy relationships for teens, how to cultivate them in the classroom, why contemplative practice helps, and specifically, why some of the stressors that teachers experience and carry can be mitigated to some degree when positive and supportive friendships develop in the classroom.


And these are friendships that we would call collegial friendships. They may not extend past the school boundaries or past the school days. But as we develop positive relatedness and collegial friendship within our classrooms and between our students, it'll lift some of the burden off of us as educators. 


As teachers, we're having to look in many directions all at once. We're also having to tend to those students who slip back, who disappear, who are unfocused or withdrawn. Establishing ways for those collegial friendships to be somewhat structured can help provide that safety net. So students can start supporting each other and when that support falls short because the need is too great, it is more likely to come to your attention that way. 


So I really want to talk about that and talk about why That's so important. I think often what I observe in the host schools where I run the inner strength program and my instructors run the inner strength team program. What we see are teachers who leave friendships to the students. They cultivate a one to one relationship with the students and.


In that what gets missed is a webbing that can be created among the group and that webbing gets created both in wholesome and harmonious and positive and educational group discussions in large group formats. It also gets created when we continually create positive webbing between. The individuals in the classroom when we create a system that allows students to connect, not just in over a pressured and grade oriented activity, like a group, small group project, but for the sole purpose of checking in, meeting each other and support that can really start to happen.


Draw these positive lines between people who might not have associated with one another. And specifically after COVID, we're needing to find ways that really help students re engage and re engage outside their comfort zone, outside their familiarity zone. So as part of your conscious classroom, or as part of your mindfulness activities, your social emotional education, you can have students be each other's check in buddies and do set a specific time period, so for a month at a time, and have the students check in with each other every Monday and every Thursday. 


And all they have to do is Check in, say, how are you doing, or text, but some contact should be made once or twice a week on a specific day. So everyone checks in, and those pairs are developed at random. So every month, there are four or five weeks of check ins, and then the conscious classroom buddies shift. 


And when they shift, they can stay in touch with their original conscious classroom friend, or they can move on. But in this way, you're going to develop this sense that the classroom is working as a whole. They might just tell each other a joke. They might share something that happened. They might remind each other of a school project. 


They might do a little bit of mindfulness. practice together. They might share something that made them laugh. The goal of these conscious classroom buddies is to uplift, to support, and to be there in very simple and practical ways. This will provide you as the teacher with a sense that your students are generating some more consistent relatedness between them. 


Without you having to micromanage. Every small group project or every paired relationship, keep the instructions simple, check in, make sure they happen, so you'll have to have some kind of code that everyone follows, or a way for students to say that they're Finding it hard to connect with their buddy and simply shift them to another one. 


We can't force these connections, but we can create an environment, an atmosphere where this sort of wholesome camaraderie, sense of working together as one classroom really develops. When we think about relationships, friendships for Young people, they're so very important. The social group is part of the identity that gets created for teens, for adolescents. 


So it's part of what's happening in their brains. It's part of what's happening in their emotional maturation. It's part of what's happening in their philosophical and psychological sense of self actualization. They're discovering who they are, they're discovering what they love, they're discovering their unique attributes. 


and what makes them their own person and personality. So if we can support young people in this self actualization and development of a positive peer group that's, that encourages them and uplifts their good qualities, they'll really feel like they have a social safety net holding and that's something that is needed as Teens and adults as well are moving more and more away from human connection to online digital connection and digital signs of friendship that may or may not be meaningful. 


When we think about how conscious classrooms can develop this sense of friendship, you want to use the mindfulness practices to help them generate that good feeling for self, for group, for strangers. And start making that connection that what we aspire to express in our meditations, we want to create in a simple way in our physical environment. 


And there are elements of that friendship that really go with the sense of a conscious classroom, a conscious way of developing a positive group identity that is not limited Bye bye. Not confining, not conforming, but is allowing for the growth and development and discovery. of each individual, while also providing direction, wholesome support, and a sense of a North Star. 


As we develop this fabric of relatedness, our classrooms are going to radiate warmth. There's going to be a sense of safety, acceptance, And also standards, that there are going to be clear standards of behavior that are held by the students. For what's appropriate within the space and what isn't and that appropriateness is going to be defined by that quality of care and Awakeness and alertness that's shown between Individuals and we can develop that By doing this simple paired work and rotating month by month. 


So one of the elements to help your students understand about this type of friendship is really being there for each other. Best friends are there for each other emotionally and practically. Did you remember to do your project? Did you remember there's a quiz tomorrow? Did you remember to bring in your permission slip to go to that athletic event? 


Did you remember that it's a half day tomorrow, so we have to arrange for where we're going to go after school? All of those little things. that are so hard to remember for all of us. Students need reminders. When we can develop that in a classroom where we're watching out for one another, not in an overbearing way, but in a way where you're teaching your students how to Want the best.


Want everyone to have a smooth ride. To remember what they've forgotten. To be reminded and supported. And doing these buddies each month can be for that purpose. Or they can be more simple. As you develop that, remind students. Notice if somebody has forgotten. Notice if somebody was absent and didn't hear the assignment. 


A little reminder, a little fill in, a little check in can go such a long way. And if you're the one receiving that the day after you came back after being sick or having a dentist appointment, you're going to appreciate that little reminder, that check in that keeps you on track without you having to worry. 


We're creating classrooms. that are kind, that support positive intent. 


In our classroom, we're going to want to make space for students to journal and students to share with one another some of their challenges. We definitely want to share our students happinesses, successes, achievements. We can have an achievement board. We can do a verbal shout out each week. We can have our buddies report on their buddies successes. 


So you're building that sense that part of what we do is not just the zero sum game. Part of what we do is we take delight in each other's successes. good events. That's a beautiful sign of that consciousness in a classroom, that sense of support, that shared delight that when somebody's happy, when somebody has a birthday, when somebody does something for the first time, when somebody gets acknowledged for success and we resonate positively with it, we're building that sense of character. 


We're building that sense of support based on the good of the whole and the good of another individual. It's so rare in our culture right now. And another more challenging aspect to really encourage students to do is to teach them how to guide each other. When they're swerving off track. So what are the good things that we're aspiring to? 


Not just you did that wrong, but what are the qualities we're trying to do? What are the accomplishments we're trying to do? How can we demonstrate through our being? Point out by looking towards the future of what's possible and when necessary directly. Readjusting each other when our students are doing that together in a conscious classroom and in a high school certainly is possible. 


They're young adults. They're already taking for many of them a great deal of responsibility in educating and caring for younger siblings or relatives or neighbors. Because they're already assuming those roles are simple guidance. of how to support, how to positively point the way, how to create that upward tug, that pull to aspire to do better, is such an important part of helping them cultivate their caring.


and their sense for each other. In this we're not trying to teach students how to be coaches or therapists. You can see that this is much more about our day to day shared relatedness, our day to day life, our day to day working in harmony. That we recognize that we're all interdependent. Everyone's mood rubs off on everyone else. 


And guiding our students into positive friendships, even with people they may never see outside of the classroom, helps them recognize that all of our interactions matter. All of our relatedness matters. All of our care and concern builds for the whole. When we walk into a class where you feel like the students think well of each other, like each other, are in competition to do their best rather than in competition to put each other down. 


We feel it's a classroom that has learning at its focus. That sense of discovery and curiosity and looking ahead is really fostered when there's this social safety net. When students don't have to look over their shoulder. They don't have to watch their back. They don't have to be afraid of what they're missing.


And they can focus on what they're imagining. This is a really... exciting shift in orientation. And for teachers who are so beleaguered and tired of disciplining, arguing beseeching, chastising, or noticing that they lost a student's attention. two months ago and nobody picked it up and nobody helped that student. 


Or if you find yourself feeling any of those things, put some effort and attention on building this network of positive friendship, warm friendliness. within your classroom in a semi structured way 


and you'll find that the mesh, the network of communication and recognition and even just seeing one another, as that builds, your lift of the whole class will lighten because a lot of the stressors and acting out or disengaging that comes from that lack of relatedness will dissipate and in its place will be a sense of care and compassion and connectedness that will start being expressed between the students. 


Teaching our students about positive relatedness. is something for all of us. It's something we benefit from. It's something we grow from and experience the inspiration of as much as they feel. That security, that safety, and that unexpected sense of support. 


So let's do a mindfulness practice that really emphasizes the qualities of friendship that we want to build between our students, lets them understand what those qualities are and repeat them, making them a habit, making them known, making them more conscious, bringing them into the forefront of their attention and etching them into their ways of being. 


So let's do a modified love and kindness practice where the theme and the focus is on friendship and friendliness and changing, expanding our sense of what friendliness can be about. and how it can support ourselves, the other person, and create an environment that is really conducive to our well being and to our learning. 


Do it along with me so you can guide your own students through it. Come into your mindfulness posture where your attention is soft and awake, 


your body is attentive. and relaxed. 


Your thoughts are settling 


and you shift your focus to the content of the practice. 


So begin first by focusing on yourself, allowing yourself to sit back, drop into your own body, noticing what you're sitting on, soft or hard. Noticing what your hands are touching, cool or warm. 


Noticing your belly. Is it soft or hard? 


And finally, noticing your breath. 


Allow your breath to be long and gentle, drawing in a deep inhalation 


and slowly releasing a long exhalation. 


Take several breaths, your own pace. Letting your breath be slow. and deep, and your exhale, be long and soft, releasing, emptying out your lungs, pausing before you fill them again. 


Now put your attention on yourself, 


feeling yourself as the center in a space that is warm, 


visualizing that you can surround yourself, 


With a shimmering net or a beautiful sphere 


filled with energy and kindness 


and well wishes. 


Imagine yourself in the center of a space that supports your well being, 


your success, and your attainment. 


And now reflect on all those around you. You can visualize them individually or just have a sense of their presence 


and imagining yourself, visualizing yourself in a space where everyone around you wants your best, 


where everyone around you reminds you of what you've forgotten, 


uplifts and helps direct you in a positive path, 


celebrates your successes full heartedly. And with good wishes, 


allow that contemplation to steep in you, 


allow the muscles of your face to soften and your lips 


to shift ever so slightly in a small, almost imperceptible smile, a smile from within, a little flutter of the heart. 


Now imagine all those around you. 


either as a whole group of your class or individuals and feel your own warm friendliness extending out to them. Feel your own happiness. at their victories, at their breakthroughs, as you watch them grow, innovate, laugh, do funny things. 


Extend your own respect as you see individuals and the group, your classroom, persevere, make it through, have grit and resilience. 


Tenacity and patience. Feel happy as you celebrate that direction, that momentum. 


And feel your own insight as you see how your kind words and your wise words can help guide and direct and support the others around you. 


Allow yourself for the next moments to rest in this feeling of being in a net of goodwill, in an ocean of friendliness, 


in an environment of care and joy. and fun and success and positive tension as the whole group lifts, stretching, growing beyond limitation, achieving beyond expectation, and connecting. beyond the usual boundaries. 


Sit as long as you'd like in stillness 


or begin to bring your reflection and your contemplation to close. 


When you practice this with your students, 


Let their attention rest first on support of themselves, second, on support they receive from the group, and third, on support they extend to the group. So when they're filled and nourished and softened and enriched by a sense of safety and goodwill, they can feel those resources to extend their own sensitivity and care. 


And observation, perception, and knowledge to all those around them to good effect. 


Even those most difficult students who act out the most, who express the most survival instinct, automatic defenses, hyper vigilance, those students have a way of watching out for others. under the right circumstances, they can be the most kind, the most protective, the most watchful in a positive sense. So as we create this webbing and this network of positive friendliness between our students, 


that will draw out superpowers, even from maybe some of our most difficult students and give them a positive way to express. What they've learned, maybe through hard times, and so that what they've learned becomes converted into leadership and wisdom and compassion and sensitivity. 


To invite you to do your Conscious Classroom Buddies, see how it goes, email me and let me know. You can drop me a line through innerstrengtheducation. org. I always get everything that comes through that portal. 


And remember that in these very difficult times, Where there are so many bad actors in the world trying to force us as a human family apart. 


Making our environments, our classrooms, our small circles with our students, positive and wholesome environments of conscious relatedness. We demonstrate the opposite. We demonstrate the potential of humankind. And we stand against the fracturing through our connection. And that brings real support. And the more we can do that.


The more those ripples can extend throughout the world. 


Thank you for joining the conscious classroom Stay well, stay kind, keep developing, keep reaching. We have an extraordinary possibility as human beings and we can create an extraordinary future ahead. 


 A friend and pass the love on. See you next time.